Sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

The Civil Rights Movement was a time in American history when African-Americans fought for equality. In this lesson, learn about how sit-ins around the country were a way that African-Americans could protest how they were being treated.

Troubled Times

How would you feel if a restaurant refused to serve you and your family? Or if you weren't allowed to go certain places and do things that others could do? Sadly, there was a time in American history when African-Americans did not have the same rights as others. This was called discrimination, and it made many people angry.

People wanted things to change so that everyone had equal rights. They started doing things to make these changes happen. This was called the Civil Rights Movement, and it started in the 1950s. Many people marched in protest and created organizations to get laws and ideas changed. One method of the Civil Rights Movement was to hold sit-ins in places that did not allow African-Americans.

The Civil Rights Movement included marches, protests, and sit-ins.
march on Washington

What Was a Sit-In?

Before the Civil Rights Movement, there were restaurants that would only serve white people. These restaurants were often lunch counters. This was a place where someone could sit on a stool at a counter and order food. But many of these lunch counters did not allow African-Americans.

Lunch counters like this one often did not serve African-Americans before the Civil Rights Act.

Some people were not happy that they could not be served at the lunch counters, so they organized sit-ins. These were peaceful protests where they would sit at the lunch counters that did not allow them, and wait until they were served.

Sit-In Rules

Do you think you could sit calmly if people were yelling and throwing things at you? Imagine how hard that would have been! These protests were meant to be peaceful, but they angered a lot of people who felt that African-Americans should not be allowed to sit at the counters. When sit-ins occurred, the African-Americans sitting would often be yelled at, or have things thrown at them. They just sat quietly and did not react, no matter how hard it was.

Famous Sit-Ins

During the Civil Rights Movement, there were many sit-ins all over the country. However, there were several that were especially significant. One famous sit-in happened in 1960. In Greensboro, North Carolina, four African-American college students had a sit-in at a local lunch counter. This action motivated many other people around the South to have sit-ins just like these students.

Many lunch counters and restaurants advertised their discrimination on windows and signs.
lunch counter

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